The Alarm's Mike Peters documents battle with cancer
In 1995, The Alarm's lead singer, Mike Peters, was diagnosed with cancer. Instead of bemoaning his fate, Peters donned a camouflage jacket and fought back.
"The Man in Camo Jacket," which premiered July 4, is an inspiring documentary that illustrates Peters' indefatigable spirit. In the years since his diagnosis and through two subsequent bouts with the disease, the Welsh singer continues to lead the Alarm (albeit with different members from the original lineup).
He is also co-founder of the Love Hope Strength Foundation which promotes music-related outreach and awareness programs for leukemia and cancer sufferers, survivors and their families. Among the events Peters has coordinated are a trip to base camp at Mount Everest, where he played a concert with Cy Curnin of The Fixx, Glen Tilbrook of Squeeze, and Slim Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats, and a concert at the top of the Empire State Building.
Peters appears with the Alarm on July 14 at KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown as part of the Vans Warped Tour.
Question: Your music seems to have become inextricably connected to your charity work and your battle against cancer. Have songs such as "Marching On" or "The Stand" (or any other Alarm song) become even more meaningful over the years?
Answer: It's true that the songs have grown in meaning through experience. Given that Love Hope Strength Foundation is all about getting people onto the international bone marrow donor registry, then a song like "Strength" from 1985, has certainly become infinitely more profound since being written — especially when you consider the line "who will donate the life blood coursing through my veins?"
Q: The lyrics to the song "45 RPM" — "A spiral scratch/gave me back my life" — seem to emphasize the importance of music in your life. Is it fair to say that without music your battle with cancer might have had a different outcome?
A: Being a musician has totally saved my life. If I hadn't had a U.S. tour to honor in 1995, during which I bought my first cancer-fighting Camo Jacket, then I would definitely have had a bone marrow transplant and my life would certainly not be the same as it is today.
Q: And Jules, your wife — it seems you found the perfect partner who was at your side through every treatment. Last year, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. How does Jules' diagnosis affect you? Does it make you even more determined in your quest to vanquish this disease?
A: 1,000 percent — I'm more determined than ever to play my part in ensuring that at some point in the not too distant future, cancer will be defeated once and for all.
Q:. There's a great line in the film from a speech you gave to World Cancer Organization event: "When I was diagnosed, I didn't see cancer coming. But then again, cancer never saw me coming either." Cancer in any form is horrible, but is it possible the disease has given your life meaning that it would have lacked otherwise?
A: I sometimes say that my life has been blessed by having cancer. It may sound strange but having cancer has meant that I have been involved in some incredible life experiences. I've been fortunate to meet some incredibly inspiring people from all walks of life, and I have a far greater appreciation of time and how precious a commodity it truly is.
Q. In "The Man in the Camo Jacket," James Chippendale, with whom you founded the Love Hope Strength Foundation, said he worries about you doing too many things. Are you able to pace yourself now so you don't put yourself at risk?
A: I think you'll have to ask Jules for clarification on that. ... Life is short and so I want to make the most of time.
Q: You've performed benefit concerts atop the Empire State Building and at Base Camp at Mount Everest. Are there any locations/destinations on your bucket list where you want to perform?
A: The festival to celebrate the end of cancer as we know it! We are planning a musical trek into the American Canyonlands for 2018 and I can't wait for that adventure to begin.
Q: You've been very active registering bone marrow donors in the UK, and seem very comfortable lobbying members of Parliament. Any thoughts of one day running for office?
A: No thanks. The pressure on people in public office is incredible and I admire anyone who is willing to take on that kind of responsibility.
Q: What's the one thing your fans can do to make a difference in the fight against cancer?
A: Get on the List (for bone marrow donors) at lovehopestrength.org
Shows of Note
Boz Scaggs, July 16, South Park Amphitheatre
There was a time a little over 40 years ago when Boz Scaggs seemed to be everywhere. The album "Silk Degrees," released in 1976, yielded the hits "Lido Shuffle," "We're All Alone" and "Lowdown." There were subsequent hits — notably "Jojo" and "Look What You've Done to Me" — and Scaggs has performed steadily since his apex, including stints with Donald Fagen's Rock and Soul Review and The Dukes of September with Michael McDonald and Fagen. alleghenycounty.us/special-events/summer-concert-series.aspx
Violent Femmes and Echo & the Bunnymen, July 17, Stage AE, North Shore
Milwaukee's Violent Femmes and Liverpool, England's Echo & the Bunnymen aren't the closest of musical kin. The Femmes' songs, such as "Blister in the Sun" and "Please Do Not Go," are brash and irreverent, almost manic in conception and execution. The Bunnymen project a darker, Doors-like presence via lead singer Ian McColloch and songs such as "Lips Like Sugar" and "Bring on the Dancing Horses. But both were once in regular rotation on MTV, so touring together does make a certain sense. 412-229-5483, promowestlive.com.
Phish, July 19, Petersen Events Center, Oakland
Phish's freeform approach to performance has earned the band the same type of fanatical following the Grateful Dead had in its prime. For the current tour that includes a technical breakthrough that the late Jerry Garcia would undoubtedly approve: Fans who attend the Petersen Events Center concert can use the LivePhish mobile app, scan a bar code using a smartphone and have access to a live stream of the concert they've just seen. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com.
Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.